An often used cliché that we use when telling stories is that when we go to help someone really they ended up helping us. There are two reasons why I never did understand this form of thinking or talking. One, I thought it was hypocritical, or at the very least misleading. We say we are going to help someone else, but really in the back of our minds we know that we really will be the ones being helped. Somehow our spiritual progression, or some amazing experience with God is more important than the actual service. If we are serving to progress, get further in life or enlightenment or to be smarter than I think we still have a few things to figure out.
Second, I didn’t like it because it just didn’t feel true. When I go to New Orleans and help gut houses I didn’t leave there thinking they changed me more than I changed them. I left their broken, tired, grumpy and with a few more houses gutted so families could move back into them. We helped them. They were in need and people from all over the world have been stepping in to fulfill that need since the disaster. Now it was amazing to meet these people and see their reactions and attitudes to such a disaster to their lives. But to walk away and say “wow that trip helped me grow spiritually” without giving too much thought that “wow, three families can move back home now” seems to be missing the point. I didn’t leave New Orleans helped, enlightened or anything different than when I went in. In fact, the reason I went in is because I felt something before I met these people and gutted the houses.
When I sat at the FRWY in Hamilton all summer, and when disabled people would come to talk to me, when they left I felt drained. I had very little patience, I wanted them to leave at times and in no way did I feel empowered to love or care for them, in fact I felt the opposite especially when they were around. When I end up spending time with the same draining person for long periods of time, I feel at lost. Maybe though, this is where this idea comes in. Because even though with everything said two paragraphs higher, there is something about the idea of being helped and served while helping and serving that won’t leave me. Maybe I’m missing something here.
Darryl has a friend that he talks to and she just got back from a third world country. When he asked her why she went she said because it was part of her “wanting to meet children who are extremely poor who hold the secret to life” mission in life. That is a powerful statement. There are all sorts of reasons why I can think of why they would hold the secret of life, but none of them seem to do justice. Why would a nun like Mother Teresa spend her entire life in the poorest areas of the world? What draws anyone to that?
Maybe that is the secret. The idea that there is nothing appealing in some circumstances. There is nothing desirable in scrounging in dumpsters or fields for food. There is nothing appealing about starving yourself so your kids don’t have to. There is nothing appealing about living on less than a dollar a day. Yet, even in the most unappealing circumstances, we see Jesus there treating people as if they were Kings and appealing. Maybe the secret is that there is nothing more like fulfilling our purpose than participating side by side with Jesus in the restoration of all creation. Maybe the secret is not a secret at all and when Jesus says that we take care of those in need we are actually taking care of him because he wasn’t lying; we aren’t just helping people, we are helping Jesus.